Kristin used to hang out on Capri and the Costiera Amalfitana, in the old days, but we've never been, and it's time. So here we go for a couple of weeks in fall 2010 for the off-season prices.
may not find this terribly rewarding unless you're included here, so this
is a good time for casual and random browsers to turn back before they
get too caught up in the sweep and majesty of the proceedings and can't
Solfatara, for the gases
The fiery Phlegraean Fields of Greek mythology (with the lake of Avernus, the entrance to the Underworld) -- Campi Flegrei to the Italians -- start here at Solfatara, an active volcano in the middle of the giant cauldron of about 20 volcanic craters in the region, midway between Cumae, the first Greek colony on the Italian mainland, and the "new city" of Neapolis (Naples).
So here's how we, like Orphesus, Odysseus, Aeneas, Dante, and so many before us, enter the Underworld -- just through that little doorway on the left (5 euros, but free for seniors).
The grand plan of the crater, The House of the God of Fire, or Vulcan's Forum or whatever, with various scientific monitoring instruments strewn out across it. We just hopped onto the local bus up the hill from the rail station in Pozzuoli just west of Naples and here we are, in Classical Hell.
We're just chasing along after Kristin as she hurries into the caldera to get at those sulfuric fumaroles and bubbling mud pits.
The bottom of my sneakers look like they're getting soft, and they're smelly. And there's smoke coming out all over the place. Uh oh.
We're dashing first for the main attraction, the Bocca Grande.
Kristin likes this stuff, in the conviction, probably, that it's healthy.
The wind changed.
A gentleman near the big vent is playing with his bishop doll.
And photographing his bishop with a foot-long lens.
Everyone needs a hobby.
The wind changed.
Kristin welcomes further toxic fumes at the Bocca Grande.
(She'll probably begin speaking in delphic epigrams. Like "If they invade Iraq, a mighty empire will fall".)
The bishop is down!
Parallel dramas being played out alongside one another
"I didn't ask to be here."
Kristin's ready to continue our tour of the noxious facilities, but the bishop is staying on.
Perhaps the bishop hasn't finished his pastoral work here.
The whole place seems like it's going to blow any minute. We Oxygen Fans are staying as far off as our zoom lens lets us.
A good dose of sulfuric fumes, and curiously refreshed
There may be more toxic refuse here than in small towns next to a US military base.
Kristin crawling inside the Stufe Antiche for more of the vile gases
Busloads of older tourists lining up with their respiratory problems, for cures
Now we're back downtown at the rail station in coastal Pozzuoli, Sophia Loren's hometown (by the way), and in Julius Caesar's time the chief metropolis (not Naples) of this region. Still fashionable, but much diminished from those glory years two millennia ago, though they do still have a BiG Food "cash & carry".
We'd hoped that this lot was done with by now, but no. When Romano Prodi came home from the EU, our heart leapt, but that didn't work out at all.
At the end of the train line at Torregaveta (we were trying to get to Cumae, but things weren't running today; no reason given), we stopped to have lunch. This is where you should NOT go to have lunch in Torregaveta. 'Nuff said.
But the scenery is very scenic here, that's true.
This is the long something or other standing out from Torregaveta, and maybe Capri on the horizon.
On the train ride back into Naples, we're passing some fairly tired old towns on the way.
We're back in Naples now and walking home in a leisurely manner.
Hey, hot diggity, a Neapolitan protest demonstration coming up. Oh, no, it was yesterday. We missed this one.
Naples street scene
American iconography is imitated all round the world.
They love us for our freedoms.
Street scene. After a long day at the sulfurous fumaroles, I'm getting hungry.
And it's time for dinner -- this is the Hosteria Toledo, which we loved very much for the excellent menu and (except for one woman we didn't like) warm and friendly staff, and during our week and a bit in Naples we stopped in here more nights than we didn't. The "Pizzeria" part is a little misleading, as there's no pizza.